The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene continues to investigate the link between E. coli O157:H7 infections and the consumption of apple cider from Westminster’s Baugher’s Orchard and Farm. According to the Carroll County Times:
Frances Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health from the DHMH, said the department has been notified of seven cases of a specific strain of E. coli infections that began appearing in mid-October. Of those seven cases, five were children younger than 18 and three cases resulted in hospitalization. All afflicted people recovered and those hospitalized have been discharged, she said.
Baugher’s has done the right thing and issued a voluntary recall. Baugher representative Cheryl Vural, though, claims that "no links between the cider and the cases of illness have been confirmed." It appears that this claim is based upon a lack, so far, of a positive test for E. coli O157:H7 in Baugher’s product. Such a claim can be misleading. With food with a relatively short shelf life, it is far from uncommon to have a well documented outbreak without such positive results. The implicated batch of food or beverage may well be long gone by the time an outbreak is recognized.